247 Pierce Road, Elizabeth, PA 15037 (Mailing Address) ministryunfailinglove@gmail.com 724-590-1393 (Pastor Kevin)

The Gospel Message of Radical Inclusion

The Good Samaritan by Aimé Morot (1880)
By Pastor Kevin

There is a tendency for us to believe that we are always in the right. We are always God’s chosen people. As for those other guys, they are evil. They are Satanic or unchristian. We are definitely not like them. In the contemporary American church, the issue is often framed so that it is liberal vs. conservative, or Democrat vs. Republican, or American vs. foreigner, or Judaeo-Christian vs. Muslim. I could go on and on. We, as human beings, have a tendency to be tribal. We have a tendency to distrust those who we place on the margins. We consider them unclean, different, or simply against everything that we stand for.

The Jewish community, in the first century, also had these problems. They were divided into Pharisees and Sadducees, ethnically Jewish and Gentile, etc. They had prejudices and biases that contributed to a lack of love and justice within the land. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, however, challenges these prejudices.

First of all, Jesus commands us simply and plainly to love all people:

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ [Deut. 6:4,5]. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ [Lev. 19:18]. There is no commandment greater than these’ (Mark 12:28-31; cf. Matthew 22:34-40, Luke 10:25-28).

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ [Lev. 19:18]. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48; cf. Luke 6:27-36).

The earliest followers of Jesus held to this teaching, and most books of the New Testament restate the same message in one way or another. The moral standard Christians should strive for is one of love.

Jesus’ commandment to love manifests in some strange and pretty offensive ways too. In the gospels, we learn that an essential part of Jesus’ ministry was associating with tax collectors and sinners. We fail to realize today just how scandalous this was, especially regarding tax collectors. The area in which Jesus lived had recently been taken over by a foreign occupying military, the Roman Empire. The tax collectors were agents of the enemy. Jesus, however, loved them, and he served and dined with them. He called them to be his disciples. Jesus loved the unlovable, and he manifested that love in every part of his ministry.

The parable of the good Samaritan is another good example:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:25-37).

Samaritans were the enemy. They were the sister religion to Judaism that emerged from the northern kingdom (Israel) in contrast to that of the southern kingdom (Judah). They were traitors and heretics, and yet, it is the Samaritan who is the loving man of God, and the Jewish leaders had gone astray.

This parable is deeply relevant to us today. We live in a world of religious and partisan divisions, and God gives us this parable to challenge our prejudices. This could easily be the parable of the good Muslim, or the parable of the good Democrat or Republican, or the parable of the good Catholic, and so on. Whatever walls and prejudices we set up for ourselves, this parable is there to challenge us.

Hear the words of the Apostle Paul, who himself preached a message of radical inclusion to the Gentiles:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28).

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised,barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all (Colossians 3:11).

He who has ears to hear, let him hear! May we go and do likewise. May we follow Jesus and his apostles and be loving towards all, even with those who we dislike.

Welcome to Our New Website!

Welcome to the new website of Unfailing Love. We are starting out 2018 fresh, and we are excited about the new opportunities in front of the ministry. This new online home and our Facebook page will be the primary sources for Unfailing Love news and posts. Stay tuned for news concerning meetings and Bible studies, more of which will be coming within the next several months.

Communion and Anointing Service

Communion

P: Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits…  So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them (Mark 6:7, 12-13).

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29).

P: Let us pray to the Lord—for our individual needs, for the needs of the whole people of God, and for the needs of all people.

Silent Prayer

P: Lord, hear our prayers. Read More

The “Anarchy” of the Kingdom

“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” — Jesus

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

First Reading: Micah 3:5-12
Psalm: Psalm 43
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12

Every single week, I can turn on the news and hear about some leader who has been disgraced due to their mistakes. If you go to Google, and do a news article search for terms such as “pastor” or “politician”, there are a million recent articles of people in such positions getting in trouble for some level of hypocrisy or corruption. There really is nothing new under the sun. People in positions of authority are sinners just like everyone else, and those sins can be disastrous. This is a problem that the people in the Bible knew well. Read More

Love Your Neighbor

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading: Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18
Psalm: Psalm 1
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Gospel: Matthew 22:34-46

Today’s Scripture passages give us one of the most important messages of the Bible and of Jesus. Our passage in from Matthew 22 gives us one of the clearest and most basic examples of what it means to be a Christian. It is this passage that we refer to in our ministry’s about section concerning the basic principles of Christianity. In Matthew 22 (and it’s parallels in other parts of the New Testament), we learn about the basic core message of the Bible. It’s really boils down to two key principles:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love your neighbor.

Now, of course there is a lot more to the Christian religion, and a lot more contained in the Bible, than these two points. However, these two points are the foundation upon which all the rest of it should lie. As Jesus said, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Read More

Think On These Things

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

First Reading: Isaiah 25:1-9
Psalm: Psalm 23
Second Reading: Philippians 4:1-9
Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14

Yesterday, a few of us at Unfailing Love met for a small worship service in my home. Even though the lectionary provides four Scripture passages each week, I specifically focused upon two this week: Psalm 23 and Philippians 4. There has been some hardship in the Unfailing Love community recently, with one person becoming hospitalized and now in rehab, and another person experiencing the death of a family member. With these events in mind, Psalm 23 and Philippians 4 seemed like the perfect passages to focus upon.

Read More

The Stone That the Builders Rejected.

 

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm: Psalm 80:7-15
Second Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14
Gospel: Matthew 21:33-46

Today’s gospel passage in the lectionary follows a similar theme as we reflected upon last week. In last week’s gospel reading, which was from the same chapter, Jesus challenged the Jewish clergy of his day. Jesus tells them very plainly that the tax collectors and harlots (i.e. traitors and sinful women) are going into God’s Kingdom before they are. Today’s passage continues the story. Read More

The Kingdom Is Full of Rejects and Misfits

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Psalm: Psalm 25:1-9
Second Reading: Philippians 2:1-13
Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32

In today’s Scripture readings, I want to call special attention to the readings from Matthew’s gospel and Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In both these two passages, we find out a lot of information about the nature of Christ’s message.  Read More

Communion and Fellowship

We will be meeting today (Monday the 18th) for Communion and fellowship, and we usually meet every Monday in the late afternoon. If you are interested in joining us, please contact us for more information.

Justice For the Oppressed

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

First Reading: Genesis 50:15-21
Psalm: Psalm 103:1-13
Second Reading: Romans 14:1-12
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35

I was excited to see today’s psalm in the Revised Common Lectionary. Psalm 103 has a history in my family. If you look at any of the Bibles belonging to my great-grandmother, Psalm 103 is marked off as one of her favorite passages. She wrote a note in a Bible that she gave to my father that she wanted this psalm read at her funeral. It was even written by her in the front my father’s old The Way Living Bible. It seems like Psalm 103 was one of those passages that she shared every chance that she could get. Read More